Commentary | APT says sticking point remains in contract negotiations

APT President Dr. Elise Marks made the following remarks at the May 8 school board meeting. According to APT, as of May 13 the PUSD school board has not agreed to go public with the remaining point of contention.

At the April 24 School Board meeting, we announced another round of contract negotiations, and I’m pleased to say we met for several hours last Wednesday, May 1, and again last Friday, May 3, and made excellent and collaborative progress. We are very, very close to resolution. 

Unfortunately, there is still a sticking point that we cannot get past. Under the rules of Impasse and Mediation, we can’t be specific in public about what the sticking point is, but I very much wish we could openly share what it is. 

This lack of resolution is, of course, exceedingly frustrating for all of us and for this community. 

The need to reach an acceptable deal is especially urgent given what’s happening behind the scenes with many Piedmont educators right now. I’ve stood here many times warning that if we don’t become more competitive with other local districts in terms of compensation that we won’t be able to attract or retain the best teachers for our students. 

In the last few weeks, we’re seeing the concrete results of the failure to get more competitive. As much as I’ve known this was coming, it’s still shocking to see. Piedmont has never been a district that teachers leave, certainly not to move to other districts within driving distance, but in the past couple of weeks, the resignations have begun coming in, as teachers leave for Campolindo, Dublin, San Ramon, Walnut Creek, Berkeley, and more. These departures are in addition to the already unusually large number of resignations, leaves, and retirements we knew about in March. 

I know of six teachers so far in this new round who have made their decisions final and have signed with other districts. I know many more who have offers in hand–sometimes multiple offers–with salaries ten thousand, twenty thousand, forty thousand and even more above what the teacher currently earns in Piedmont, and often the health benefits are better.  

Every day, I learn of more teachers who are actively interviewing for jobs elsewhere. They include beloved veterans and dynamic young teachers, teachers in extremely hard-to-hire fields, people who’ve always said they planned to stay here until retirement, people who are the cornerstones of essential programs throughout the district. We cannot afford to lose them. Because our teachers are such strong candidates, they will surely receive offers from surrounding districts eager to snap them up.

In the 24 years I’ve been here, I can think of maybe three or four teachers who’ve voluntarily left Piedmont to teach elsewhere locally. If we don’t arrive at a deal that makes staying here more economically viable, even larger numbers say they will be on the job market next spring. 

This is a disastrous situation. 

We know PUSD doesn’t have the means to match the compensation packages of those surrounding districts, but we need to close the gap to the greatest degree we can. Our teachers generally don’t want to leave. They love their students and colleagues and this community, and will make sacrifices to stay here if they can. But if the gap isn’t meaningfully narrowed, they’ll do what they have to do.

We believe we are so close to agreement that waiting until late May or June for Fact-Finding–and therefore going into summer without a deal–will only cause more teachers with outside offers to make the choice to leave. 

To prevent any further loss of great educators, APT asks district leadership to agree with us mutually to formally end Impasse and make our most recent offers open to the public.

Ending Impasse would also take the threat of a strike off the table, and lessen the anxiety the community has felt about that possibility. 

APT believes that if the community understands what’s holding us back from a deal, they will agree with APT’s position and see our path forward very clearly. 

APT is here and ready to talk at any time. 

We are asking the members of the School Board to please take that final step and reach an agreement. 

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